CRC Releases Final Report on Catholic Eucharist
After 10 years of study, dialogue, and debate, the Christian Reformed Church in North America has released its final report that clarifies the CRC’s stance on the Lord’s Supper as it relates to the Roman Catholic Church.
Recently posted and made available on the CRCNA website, “The Lord’s Supper and the Catholic Mass” is the result of extensive evaluation and discussion between CRC and Catholic educators and theologians.
At issue had been the Question and Answer 80 of the Heidelberg Catechism. In the answer portion, the catechism says the Catholic Mass “is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and a condemnable idolatry.”
“This wasn’t an ecumenical dialogue in the normal sense of the word. We were not asked to look at what are the convergences” between the Reformed and Catholic understanding of the Lord’s Supper, says Lyle Bierma, professor of systematic theology at Calvin Seminary. “We were asked to look at whether the catechism accurately portrayed the Catholic teaching and practice of the Mass.”
What the final report says is that there remain important differences between how the two denominations view the Lord's Supper. But the report also finds Question and Answer 80 in the catechism did not accurately represent the Catholic Church’s beliefs on the topic.
The 2006 CRC Synod approved the report and asked that it be edited and placed in its final form and made available to church members and others. The document was completed recently and posted on the CRC’s website (www.crcna.org) as a free download.
The final three paragraphs in the catechism containing “condemnable idolatry” have not been deleted from Q and A 80, but the section has been put in brackets.
In a footnote, the Synod has added the brackets “to indicate that they do not accurately reflect the official teaching and practice of today’s Roman Catholic Church and are no longer confessionally binding on members of the CRC.”
“It (the final report) is offered to all of the ecumenical partners of the CRC, and to all who have an interest in matters theological, as a contribution to confessional clarity and integrity,” says Pete Borgdorff, executive director emeritus of the CRC.
The issue goes back to Synod 1998 when two overtures were made. One of the overtures asked that the phrase “a condemnable idolatry” be removed “because Christian love, unity, and understanding demand it.” The other, however, asked the phrase remain, given that it accurately reflected the CRC’s view of the Catholic Church’s stance. The Synod asked the CRC’s Interchurch Relations Committee to look into the matter.
The report makes it clear that there are extensive differences on how the two denominations view the sacrament. However, it does show as well that there are some important commonalities. .“In summary,” says the report, “in Reformed teaching the message (of God) is the privileged medium of grace, while in Roman Catholic teaching the Eucharist (as Catholics refer to communion) is the privileged medium of grace.”
To view or download the report, visit crcna.org/SynodResources